I have just returned from a seminar in Portugal called “Awakening Qi” with my long time friends and associates, Bill Tara and Chico Varatojo. The seminar focused on how we use and work with qi in our daily life and professional healing practices.
I came upon this interesting website that shows how we can transition to natural, gentle, and inexhaustible energy sources that can help restore and repair Nature’s qi. Check it out.
What do you think?
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It has been my observation that recently more and more vegans have been having bone problems including hip fractures and replacements. In the past, hip fractures were considered to be a sign of old age and impending death. This may not the case today, but I do believe that the food choices common to much of the vegan practice are creating an overly acidic condition which may cause calcium loss. Calcium is available in all plant-based foods, especially greens and beans. Proper food preparation aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium, minerals, and other nutrients.
Current vegan recommendations advise avoiding all added salt, sugar, and oil. In addition, nightshades and other acidifying vegetables are highly recommended. Furthermore, smoothies are often used to replace some meals altogether. It is my concern that this may not be a healthy direction for a sustained vegan practice. All of the world’s long-standing civilizations were plant-based; their mainstays were grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits. They also used salt and oil in their food preparations (this includes the people of Blue Zones). It seems it is safer and healthier to base our general recommendations on what has already worked for many hundreds, or even thousands of years.
There’s no doubt that the excessive use of salt and oil is unhealthy, especially when these are poor quality. It might be advisable to take a softer approach by recommending a minimal use of natural sea salt and high quality sesame and/or olive oil. Salt makes food tastier, more enjoyable, and satisfying. High-quality sea salt, used in cooking, aids in carbohydrate digestion and absorption in the small intestine. Oil, used in cooking, aids in the absorption of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K). It also adds to the taste and enjoyment of foods cooked in oil.
I am concerned that current vegan recommendations are an overreaction to a meat and dairy-based diet. The world is watching us; let’s make sure we get it right. I’d like to add more detailed information about specific recommendations and food choices in future blogs. Stay tuned.
Farmer’s markets provide many benefits for the health of individuals and communities. Farmer’s markets help us to learn about and reconnect with food and nature. Philadelphia has a strong network of farmer’s markets throughout the week. No matter the day, people can connect with the local food scene as well as enjoy the health benefits of eating locally and seasonally.
-Buying food at farmer’s markets encourages us to go home and cook.
-We become more practical and creative with our cooking.
-We discover foods we are naturally drawn to as well new foods we may have never encountered.
-The density and uniqueness of flavors as well as the depth of color of produce from farmer’s markets is far beyond the range of flavors offered by conventional produce.
-We reawaken to the seasonality of certain foods. This allows us to fully enjoy and appreciate foods as they become available.
-They allow us to find our natural sense of taste for foods.
-We receive practical education about the variety of available foods from a particular season and region.
-They are healthy social gathering places.
– Going to the market is an event to look forward to as a new ritual.
-We connect with the people who grow our food.
The proliferation of farmer’s markets is an indicator of people’s desire to reconnect with nature and health. To me, it is a sign that people are curious, excited, and motivated with building an economy that is based on health. And I am pretty sure that once you start visiting your local farmer’s market, it will be hard to stay away.
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Intelligence is defined as an ability to acquire and apply knowledge or skills. By that definition, I would say that macrobiotics is the most intelligent diet and lifestyle available today. As we practice, we develop a deeper connection to ourselves, nature, and all of life. We begin to experience how our actions affect the planet and those around us.
Ultimately, our life is produced by the interaction of nature between the earth and the celestial world. Our dietary and lifestyle practices help us to establish a deep connection with nature. Nature always inspires a sense of wonder, marvel, mystery, and inspiration. Nature is resourceful and resilient and constantly adapting to change. It is through aligning with nature that true intelligence and creativity within ourselves reawakens.
-Food connects us to nature. Plant-based foods create a direct connection. Eating local and indigenous foods creates and maintains a strong connection to our local environment, to climatic, and seasonal change.
– We acknowledge our connection to all of life and express gratitude for everything that has brought the food to us. Each meal reminds us of the abundance that nature provides.
We appreciate and acknowledge the amazing contributions and discoveries of past people, their experiences, and resulting traditions. These traditions are the strongest guides to help us create a sustainable, creative, and abundant future.
-The practice becomes unique to each individual and reawakens our natural taste and appetite. In turn, we can learn how to make the best choices for our life and health.
-Nature is unique; it is endlessly growing, changing, and adapting. Connecting with nature helps us to express and develop our own uniqueness.
-Encouraging local production allows us to reawaken our experience of the changing seasons.
-It is a never ending learning process that helps develop our ability to think independently and figure things out.
-It becomes a model for scientific inquiry and discovery; science consistently follows and validates macrobiotic dietary and lifestyle practices.
-Our families and communities are strengthened through encouraging us to reconnect and share during mealtimes.
-Encourages us to return to an orderly lifestyle practice, and express an appreciation for the changing seasons and traditions.
-It becomes the ultimate anti-aging diet and lifestyle practice by providing the most abundant and healthy nourishment; people consistently look and feel younger and think more clearly as time passes.
-We have another nervous system in our gut. Healthy eating and good nutrition affects healthy thinking and creativity.
-Taking responsibility for our dietary and lifestyle practice helps us realize a greater sense of control for our own life.
Practical steps in our “>daily life helps us develop natural ways and methods to express our creativity. It is no accident to me that intelligent and creatives minds from the past such as Einstein, DaVinci, Emerson, and Ben Franklin had similar diet and lifestyle practices. Does your own experience validate these points?
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We can regulate our metabolism through foods choices, mealtimes, and daily lifestyle practices. I define metabolism as the ability to digest and absorb the nutrients in food, and the ability to eliminate the excess. Excess takes the form of what we don’t use as well as accumulated toxins. The key to a healthy metabolism is the right foods at the right times.
Our digestion is not on call 24 hours a day; our body is most ready to receive nourishment at certain times. Eating at the proper times activates our metabolism, whereas eating between these times or skipping meals deactivates it. A person with a poor diet who sits down to eat at regular times will have better health than someone with a poor diet and poor eating habits.
Starting breakfast by 8:30 a.m., lunch between 11 and 1 p.m., and dinner between 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. are the best times of day for our meals. Lunch is the most important meal of the day to be consistent with as it has the greatest ability to regulate our metabolism
-Sit down to eat without doing other things
-Start meals at the proper times and don’t skip meals
-Eat slowly, and chew food thoroughly
-Stop eating before full
-Sleep and rise early–the earlier you eat, the more active your metabolism will be
-Do not eat at least three hours before going to sleep
-Have daily, life related activity, especially cleaning and walking outside everyday
-Try to eat with other people
-Have a good belly laugh every day
-Do things for other people
4 Comments | Tags: Adjusting Your Diet
Traditional diets have a variety of foods and beverages that are naturally refreshing and healthy. Almost all healthy diets have a high moisture content from cooked grains and beans, vegetables, soups, fruits, and fermented foods. The modern diet with staples such as meat, poultry, eggs, cheese, and baked/fried foods, is a very dry diet that creates cravings for unhealthy refreshing foods such as soda and ice cream. This is a practical example of how healthy foods create cravings for healthy beverages and vice versa.
Having a diet with a high moisture content reduces the need to drink as often or excessively. The most important liquid is in food. When we eat foods with a high moisture content, our bodies can utilize the fluids in these foods more efficiently. Healthy foods want to be chewed more as well, and become naturally sweet and refreshing as we chew. Drinking to quench thirst, however, is a natural supplement to refreshing foods. Mild beverages, such as herbal and grain teas or room temperature/chilled water are thirst quenching.
I see “refreshing” as one of the most important nutrients; it is something everyone craves. Refreshing helps us to naturally feel mentally and emotionally revitalized. These foods naturally reduce stress because they gently disperse heat and energy.
-boiled grains, especially when chewed
-steamed greens with lemon
-any type of juicy lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, or celery
-watermelon, and other juicy fruits like strawberries, peaches and plums
-sauerkraut and mild vinegars (cider vinegars, brown rice vinegars)
-sweet, fruity olives
-mints and cooling herbs, such as peppermint, basil, and parsley
-chilled, roasted barley tea (though bitter) is a very thirst quenching beverage
What are some of your favorite refreshing foods and beverages?
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Natural pickling and fermentation are the most unique, traditional forms of food preservation that enhances the quality of the foods. Fermentation is an external, predigestion process that converts complex nutrients to simpler ones. Common fermented foods and beverages include sourdough, vinegar, and wine. Pickling is a type of controlled fermentation using salt. Examples of pickled products are miso, sauerkraut, and olives.
Modern preservation techniques stop the changes in foods. In essence, these foods become sterile. Natural pickling and fermentation facilitates continuous, ongoing transformation and enhancement of certain aspects of foods. For example, pressed apples (apple cider), if unpasteurized, over time ferments into hard apple cider, an alcoholic beverage. If left to further ferment, hard apple cider turns into apple cider vinegar. Each product is unique, and in some ways, mimics the aging process in human beings. Although the fresh, bright aspects may decline as we lose youth, our deeper, essential qualities become enhanced as we age.
-For healthy digestion, we need both prebiotics and probiotics. Prebiotics are the fibers in whole grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
-Pickled and fermented foods, commonly now referred to as sources of probiotics, when combined with prebiotics, help create the healthiest environment for gut microbes to flourish.
-We have a second nervous system called the enteric nervous system in our gut. It is composed of the same types of cells that make up our central nervous system. Pickled and fermented foods bolster and support the connection between the cells that are shared between these two nervous systems.
-We also have two digestive systems. Mental, emotional, and digestive health are interrelated and affected by the foods we eat. Our digestive system processes liquids whereas the brain and nervous system process thoughts, ideas, and vibrations.
-Naturally pickled and fermented foods support the development of gut microbes which prevents unhealthy microbes from developing and flourishing.
-Pickled and fermented foods help develop a natural, efficient immune response, and also suppresses inflammatory response often associated with allergies, cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
-Pickled and fermented foods best express the qualities of a particular climate. Wine, beer, and miso are common examples of how microclimates affect the quality of a fermented product. If we want to assimilate to another environment, eating or drinking native, naturally pickled and fermented foods help us adapt more easily to that climate.
-The basis of a healthy plant-based diet are grains, beans, vegetables and fruits. The most important probiotics for this way of eating are miso (grain and bean), sauerkraut (vegetable), and umeboshi plum (fruit).
-Pickled and fermented foods aid the digestive process and our ability to absorb and utilize nutrients.
-It is the interaction of foods that provides the greatest benefit. Pickled and fermented foods should be eaten in combination with other foods during a meal. Having miso soup, sauerkraut or a glass of wine during a meal provides the fullest benefit.
Kimberly, a nutritional therapy student in the UK, recently posted on her blog “The Little Plantation” about miso soup and her experience with macrobiotics. I wish to thank her for encouraging people to read “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet.” I’d also like to compliment her for recognizing that our style of macrobiotic practice is an orderly approach to life that connects us with our environment and brings us to better overall health.
It is clear that modern society does not prioritize health. When we begin macrobiotic practice, it takes effort to create an orderly, daily schedule and to carve out time for meals. However, over time, these health-supporting habits become second nature. The way in which we practice macrobiotics influences and determines our overall health. Because health is a direction, and not a fixed state, any efforts we make to improve our dietary and lifestyle practice moves us in the direction of health.
When I began my practice, I also thought that macrobiotics was based on a traditional Japanese diet. However, over time I began to realize this way of eating and living was common to the world’s long standing civilizations. With few exceptions, traditional diets from our ancestors around the world were based around a variety of grains, beans, vegetables, soups, pickled and fermented foods, seeds, nuts, and fruits. Not only that, but it is also common that our ancestors had lifestyles that aligned with nature’s orderly cycles.
Each civilization has made significant contributions that have become a part of our personal practice. For example, we eat a variety of whole grains and their products from temperate climatic zones. Not only do we eat brown rice, we also include pasta, polenta, unyeasted sourdough bread, and oatmeal. We tried to illustrate the global influence in our practice in the recipe section of “The Complete Macrobiotic Diet,” which serves as a reference point for those interested in integrating global cuisines. The future of modern macrobiotic practice is in embracing the contributions of these cuisines, which includes the traditional Japanese diet from which macrobiotics was originally based.
Thanks Kimberly for sharing with your readership what you have been learning and for helping to dispel some of the misconceptions about modern macrobiotic practice. As time goes on, macrobiotic, vegetarian, and vegan practices will align more closely as we focus more on planning our meals around grains, beans, and vegetables.
Craving sweets is usually associated with emotional satisfaction. We often feel guilty indulging our taste for sweets. Craving sweets may not be such a bad thing. Sweet is the most important and healthiest taste, followed by salty and sour tastes, followed by bitter and pungent tastes. It is the predominant and most abundant taste in healthy food, and also leads to the greatest emotional satisfaction. It is important to differentiate between healthy and unhealthy sweets. Healthy, sweet flavors come from complex sugars naturally found in grains, beans, and vegetables. These complex sugars break down in the digestive process and release their sweetness through chewing.
Healthy food is predominated by a mildly sweet, pleasant, and satisfying taste. Complex sugars give us steady and long-lasting energy. However, simple sugars from refined and processed grains, sugar, honey, fructose, and alcohol, often cause our blood sugar to spike and then crash. These same simple sugars create an acidic condition in our blood that causes a loss in minerals and other valuable nutrients that neutralize the acidity. If we don’t get enough healthy, mild sweets, we tend to crave poor quality sweets available from refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and/or alcohol. The natural sweet taste in the modern diet is hard to find. However, in all traditional diets, there was an abundance of sweet tastes from grains, beans, and vegetables. The sweet taste was enhanced through various cooking styles.
We can satisfy our need for sweets by choosing different grains, beans, and vegetables in different cooking combinations. There are three types of healthy sweet tastes: well-cooked, well-cooked and puréed, and light, refreshing sweets. Natural sweetness can be enhanced with the use of grain-based concentrated sweeteners such as rice syrup and barley malt.
Here are some suggestions that demonstrate the different types of healthy sweets and how to recognize them.
Onions, carrots, winter squash and sweet potatoes all become sweeter the longer they are cooked.
Well-cooked and Puréed
Puréed vegetable soups are sweet and creamy and can be made from onion and cauliflower or carrot and sweet potato.
Light, refreshing sweet
Light, refreshing sweetness can come from steaming, blanching, or quickly sautéing greens such as kale, broccoli, or Napa cabbage.
I recently viewed this talk by Dan Buettner on the Blue Zones. The Blue Zones are the places in the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians–the people who live to be 100 or beyond. He compiled research about their eating habits and food choices over the course of three years. It came as no surprise to me that what he discovered about people who live long, healthy lives, shares striking similarities to what we’ve been recommending to our clients for over forty years.
I’d like to emphasize the common points of our mutual recommendations, as well as bring to light some things he briefly mentioned. He noted that people in the Blue Zones have a plant-based diet centered around grains, beans, and vegetables, and supplemented by seeds, nuts, and fruits. This is consistent with our recommendations. He also spoke about the significant difference between yeasted bread and naturally fermented sourdough bread and its effects on our blood sugar. All naturally pickled and fermented foods help regulate the digestion and absorption of nutrients as well as help regulate blood sugar. Although he mentioned sourdough bread and red wine, he did not get into other equally important pickled and fermented products (such as naturally made miso soup and sauerkraut) which aid in healthy digestion and enhance our ability to absorb all nutrients. We also share the observation that it is the combination and interaction of different foods within a meal which promotes the greatest health and longevity.
Longevity is a measure of the past more than the present. Someone who is 100 today was born in 1915 when the diet and lifestyle of people was much simpler– mainly organically-grown, simply processed, home-cooked, and plant-based food. People in the Blue Zones have maintained this pattern of eating. Although the Blue Zones are currently being affected by changes in the global diet, the centenarians today were raised with this simple, wholesome pattern. Time will only tell how modern, refined, highly-processed, chemicalized foods will affect our health and longevity.
History is our reality check. We’ve inherited the same pattern of dietary and lifestyle practices from all of the world’s long-standing civilizations, as can be observed today in the remaining Blue Zones. It is now time to re-establish the worldwide pattern for health and longevity that we’ve inherited from our ancestors. We also hope that this pattern will become a model for scientific research and inquiry.